Posted on 1 Comment

Jim “Stoney” Stone

Name: Jim Stone             

Road Name: Stoney

FNG Year: 2007

How many times have you been All the Way? 7         

And how many times have you been a Participant? 3

On Which Route (Routes) did you ride? Southern

What is your favorite Run for the Wall memory?

So many memories… 5 May 2009 flying from London to DFW I met a Flight Attendant whose brother went down 3 December 1969…. 10 May 2009 I met a Road Guard named Baron, the pilot who took Marty’s place on 4 December 1969…   Leading RFTW XXVII Southern Route and laying the Wreath at The Tomb are two of the great privileges of my life and things I shall NEVER forget

Touching Marty, RFTW XXV

Have you held any positions as a volunteer on the Run?  If you have, which Positions have you held?  Road Guard, 2009 – 2014,2016 and 2020; ARC 2014 and RC 2015

The best job on the Run…Road Guard!

Are you a Military Veteran, or do you have a military background or a relationship with a member of the Military?  Navy Vet, son of a Marine (Mom) and an Army FO (Dad) Vets

Are you a Gold Star or Blue Star family member? No

What inspired you to participate in the RFTW the first time?  Rolling Thunder XX

What brought you back?  The people and The Mission

Have you participated in Rolling Thunder? 2007 and again in 2009 with my Wife and Daughter.

Are you planning on participating in Rolling to Remember (the AMVETS event that replaces Rolling Thunder)? No

Give us a few words about “WHY YOU RIDE.”

In April 1975 I participated with HC-1 Det 2, on board USS Midway, in Operation Frequent Wind and I have always felt we did not get all the right people out.  My first trip to The Wall was in 2000.  I bought a bracelet for Robert Alan Clark of VA-115, shot down off Midway on 10 January, 1973. 

In 2005 I was in DC and ran into a bunch of gray-haired bikers participating in Rolling Thunder, ‘A demonstration for the MIA’s…’  I bought my first Harley in 2006 with the intent of participating in RT XX with some friends from Kalifornia.  When they could not ride in 2007, I searched the Internet and found RFTW.  I sent a note to Tadpole on his day one and he asked me to meet him in Weatherford, TX… since 2007 I have only missed The Run because of Back Surgery, an unfortunate mounting mistake enroute to RFTW XXX and my daughter’s wedding in 2019!

I have ridden each year for the Vets I have met around the world who could not participate and those who are still not home.

I ride to Continue The Mission.

Charlie Mike

Stoney

RFTW XXVII Southern Route Alabama
Posted on Leave a comment

Kristine “Eyes” Wood

Name: Kristine Wood

Road Name: Eyes

FNG Year: 2014

How many times have you been All the Way?     7 years

And how many times have you been a Participant? All the way baby!

On Which Route (Routes) did you ride? Southern Route

What is your favorite Run for the Wall memory? Do I have to choose just one? It would have to be my FNG year when Gump stood up to share his story. He told this group in front of him, hundreds of Vietnam veterans, “the reason we did not leave any behind in Iraq, was because of the lessons learned in Vietnam”. You should have seen the look on these seasoned veterans faces. This young repatriated POW telling these veterans, that they changed the course of future conflicts. It was powerful!

Have you held any positions as a volunteer on the Run?  If you have, which Positions have you held? 50/50 rouser, tail gunner, assistant platoon leader, platoon leader, sit-rep writer and assistant route coordinator

Are you a Military Veteran, or do you have a military background or a relationship with a member of the Military? I have not personally served. My father was a World War II and Korea veteran, my brother-in-law is a Vietnam Veteran, brother was in the Air Force. I have had a relative fight in every conflict this country has ever been involved in, beginning with the revolution up to today.

Are you a Gold Star or Blue Star family member? Yes, blue star.

What inspired you to participate in the RFTW the first time? The opportunity to honor and serve America’s veterans.

What brought you back? The opportunity to honor and serve America’s veterans.

Have you participated in Rolling Thunder? Yes

Are you planning on participating in Rolling to Remember (the AMVETS event that replaces Rolling Thunder)? Not sure

Give us a few words about “WHY YOU RIDE.” 

I ride because my father a World War II veteran drank himself to death. He did not face the demons of PTSD and deal with his grief and loss. My brother-in-law a Vietnam Veteran is currently battling cancer from agent orange. My son-in-law served in Afghanistan as a corpsman and saw his best friend’s legs blown off from an IED. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to these veterans and thousands of others. If by being on the run, I can help ease a Veteran’s pain and help them to heal, then I will be on the run as long as I am able.

Any favorite photos you’d like to share?  Anything else to Add? I published the book Run for the Wall – A Journey to the Vietnam Memorial www.rftwthebook.com . The book contains 300 of my favorite photos, capturing the essence of the run and why riders return year after year.

Posted on Leave a comment

Greg “r0de_runr” Noller

Name: Gregory Noller

Road Name: r0de_runr

FNG Year: 2018

How many times have you been All the Way?  2018, upcoming 2020 w/Sandbox.

On Which Route (Routes) did you ride? ATW Midway in 2018, 2 days on Southern in 2019 and upcoming ATW SR 2020.

What is your favorite Run for the Wall memory?  Being asked to fall in as a Tailgunner when my Platoon Leader needed a fill in, then that becoming an ATW event when another Tailgunner got promoted to Platoon Leader. As an FNG it was truly an honor to be asked and a special memory of successful completion.

Have you held any positions as a volunteer on the Run?  Tailgunner 3rd Plt then 6th Plt SR 2018.

Are you a Military Veteran, or do you have a military background or a relationship with a member of the Military? Retired US Army, 1971-1996. Father of an Afghanistan Vet OEF RCP 44 2012-2013 FOB Airborne.

Are you a Gold Star or Blue Star family member? Blue Star, Son-In-Law in the Air Force; Don’t know what Star color for Dad of a Combat Veteran Suicide.

Scott Noller

What inspired you to participate in the RFTW the first time? My local Combat Vets Motorcycle Association (CVMA) Det Commander (SAPPER) was a 10-year veteran of the Run, and offered to help me do my first Run. I had just lost my (veteran, police officer) son to suicide just weeks before, and my former spouse was dying of brain cancer. I had somewhat always struggled with survivor guilt after 25 years in the Army and never being shot at. My hometown high school lost three young men in Vietnam.  My brother served in Vietnam in the 196th LIB, my other brother served in Thailand during that war. I wanted to do something memorable for my son, so I decided to build a small memorial tribute and carry it from Texas to Ontario and on to Washington to place it at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Most of the nearly 2000 participants in 2018 didn’t realize they were escorting my memorial cross-country to honor my son.


What brought you back? I wanted to do it again so in 2019 I rode with Sapper just from Dallas to Meridian on the SR.  This year I want to ride ATW and include the Sandbox Route again to honor my son’s participation in that conflict.

Have you participated in Rolling Thunder? I have sat on the sidelines twice and watched (from the bridge between Arlington Cemetery and the Lincoln Memorial).

Are you planning on participating in Rolling to Remember (the AMVETS event that replaces Rolling Thunder)? No, doing Sandbox.

Give us a few words about “WHY YOU RIDE.”

I ride for my Uncle Fred Noller who died on Okinawa just 5 months before the end of WWII; I ride for the three young men who went to my high school and died in Vietnam: Jim Nufer, Richard Conrardy, and Gregg Steimel; I ride for my two brothers who fought in that war and came home: Gary and Larry Noller; I ride for all the men and women who are missing or died in all of our wars; but mostly I ride for my son Scott, who can’t.

Anything else to Add?   “Stop Veteran Suicide – 22 A Day Too Many https://youtu.be/rdTurNfZcQE

Posted on Leave a comment

Marvin “Emtee” Potts

Name: Marvin Potts

Road Name: Emtee

FNG Year: 2013

How many times have you been All the Way?  2017, 2018 (aborted)   And how many times have you been a Participant? 2013, 2016, 2019

On Which Route (Routes) did you ride? Central

 What is your favorite Run for the Wall memory?

It was my FNG year and I had joined up in Corydon IN. Our first stop was Robley Rex VA Center. As I walked in to meet patients I am greeted by a worker who asks me if I would come with her to see a patient on the oncology floor. She takes me, alone, to the elevator which we take to the top floor. She explained to me there was a particular patient who requested a visit from one of “the bikers.” I’m nervous. I’m on my first stop … only 30 miles into my FNG run. I walk into the room to see a pale, thin, bed-ridden cancer patient. I put a smile on my face and introduce myself to the man who will forever define the RFTW mission for me. My first words to him were a mindless “How ya doing?” but his reply took my breath away. He said, “Not good partner. The doc just told me my time is measured in days.” 

I spent the next 30-40 minutes talking to him about his time in Vietnam, the struggles he had upon returning, and all the Harleys he had owned over the years. He then told me I better get going or I might get left behind. In all honesty, I didn’t care. I thought about “tapping out” then and there and continue visiting with him. But then he asked if I would ride for him and remember him when I got to The Wall. I told him it would be my honor. As I walked out of the room he had one more request … to rev my bike so he could hear it all the way up there.

About a week after completing my FNG run, I received a call from his cousin … he had passed. His cousin told me that he constantly talked about all the bikes rolling in and the “young man” who graciously spent time with him that day. He told me that as we left that day, he heard someone rev their bike and he knew that had to be Emtee.

Have you held any positions as a volunteer on the Run?  Tailgunner

Are you a Military Veteran, or do you have a military background or a relationship with a member of the Military? I’m not a veteran but I am a 30 yr Air Force civilian and the father of two Army soldiers.

Are you a Gold Star or Blue Star family member? Blue Star x 2.

What inspired you to participate in the RFTW the first time? I was introduced to RFTW in 2012 after a PGR mission by Ken “Catfish” Ward. (Never underestimate the power of your representation of RFTW!) My oldest son earned a Purple Heart in Afghanistan and I wanted to honor his service. Also, a small town near home has the distinction of having the highest per capita Vietnam War casualty rate (Beallsville Ohio). Those 6 along with the other 5 from my area are known as the 11 Sons of Monroe County. I ride for them.

What brought you back? I only rode 3 days that first year but the impact was deep and everlasting.

Have you participated in Rolling Thunder? 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

Are you planning on participating in Rolling to Remember (the AMVETS event that replaces Rolling Thunder)? No, doing Sandbox.

Give us a few words about “WHY YOU RIDE”.

I ride for the vet at Robley Rex (name withheld). I ride for the 11 Sons of Monroe Co. I ride to honor my sons. I ride for and with my best friend, Dave Cain. I ride for those who can’t.

Anything else to Add?

My Facebook RFTW page is “20 Days in May”

Posted on Leave a comment

Kathryn “Literal E” Ewing

Name: Kathryn Ewing

Road Name: Literal E.

FNG Year: 2015

How many All the Way/Participant? Which Route (Routes)? 5 ATW, all Central Route

What is your favorite Run for the Wall memory? I cannot say it is a favorite Run memory, but the place (Angel Fire) and circumstances, and the reason behind it, is forever etched into my heart. I was walking toward the chapel, when one of the FNGs who I had become friends with, quietly told me that night before was the first time since her husband came home from Vietnam, that he had not slept with a loaded weapon under the pillow. This was 2015, and he had come home from Vietnam in 1971. Two things struck me at the time: 1) this wonderful, kind, loving woman had slept next to the love of her life for 44 years with a loaded weapon in their bed; and 2) it was amazing that that much healing could possibly happen in 3 days on the Run. 

VIETNAM VETERAN’S MEMORIAL ANGEL FIRE NEW MEXICO

Positions held as a volunteer on the Run? Registration Team, Registration Team Lead

Military Background if any or relationships with Military? My grandfather, and several cousins

Gold Star or Blue Star family member? my mom was a Gold Star Daughter

What got you to do the RFTW the first time? My sister and her husband hornswoggled me into participating in an adventure

What brought you back? The people and the mission

Have you participated in Rolling Thunder? Yes, once

Are you planning on Rolling to Remember (AMVETS Replacement for Rolling Thunder)? No

Brief Synopsis of “WHY YOU RIDE” I ride (OK, I’m in a cage, but that still counts!) because the Run feeds my soul. Working Registration has the advantage of meeting everyone on the route, being the first person to welcome vets and riders, and sometimes being the first person to ever say to a vet “Welcome Home.” It’s those moments when I realize I am the first person to hug them, to welcome them home, that gives me hope that maybe I’ve contributed just a bit to the start of the healing that they may not realize they need.


Posted on Leave a comment

Jim “CrackerJack” Ray

Name: Jim Ray

Road Name: Crackerjack

FNG Year: 2005

How many times have you been All the Way?    12

And how many times have you been a Participant? 4

On Which Route (Routes) did you ride? Southern

What is your favorite Run for the Wall memory? I have too many memories, both happy and sad to list here. 

Have you held any positions as a volunteer on the Run?  Fuel team, 8 years; Ambassador 4 years and current year

Are you a Military Veteran, or do you have a military background or a relationship with a member of the Military? 24-year Air Force Veteran, 2 ½ tours Vietnam in country
What inspired you to participate in the RFTW the first time? I was looking for a group to travel to the Wall with and my wife found RFTW on the net.
What brought you back? Traveling with like-minded vets. and the comradery.
Have you participated in Rolling Thunder?  One time, never again. I found it to be more of a circus, not a solemn occasion. 
Are you planning on participating in Rolling to Remember (the AMVETS event that replaces Rolling Thunder)? No, not enough time.

Give us a few words about “WHY YOU RIDE.” After my FNG ride in May 2005, I learned of a fellow Vietnam Veteran of the 18th Special Operation Sq.(18th SOS) Sgt, John O’Neal Rucker, that had been killed on “The last day of the war”, and had a memorial to him at the county court house in Lindale, Texas. I took a ride up there on Veterans day, 2005 and found they were having a ceremony for him as I arrived there. I meet his mom, brothers and sisters there and became fast friends with them. I learned that although I didn’t know Sgt. Rucker that I had contact with him during his short career. During my time as an Instructor in Block 4, Aircraft Maintenance, O’Neal, (as he was called by family and friends), was in one of my classes for a week. In 1971 I was assigned to the 18th SOS as a flight crew member on AC119K gunships. One of my duties before each night’s mission was to preflight the outside of the aircraft along with the assigned crew chief. I had to have interacted with him dozens of times. Starting in 2006, I rode every mission on RFTW for Sgt. Rucker and have been privileged to carry items to the Wall for his family. For the rest of my life, I will remember Sgt. John O’Neal Rucker and his sacrifice for our country

Posted on Leave a comment

HOW IT ALL BEGAN Gunnery Sergeant James Gregory

Between my retirement In February and the beginning of the world’s longest
organized motorcycle ride I worked part time as an accountant and full time as an
organizer. As a Company Gunny and biker leader I had put together dozens of
events involving hundreds of folks but this was different. There was no email, no
cell phones and long-distance calls costs a small fortune. Mailing flyers and
coordinating phone calls was my daily chore. My so-called partner showed up once
to complain then left but another Vietnam Vet and his wife stepped up to help. Sam
and Margo volunteered to sell merchandise and help with mailing. We had to raise
some funds. Easy Rider Magazine gave us free advertising space for our first item, a
black and yellow patch that read “Jane Fonda, America Traitor Bitch”. Some money
began to flow into the treasury but not nearly enough. My savings was down to zero,
think goodness my Marine retirement paid most of the mortgage. Volunteers began
to return calls from across the US with the first from “Greasy” in Kentucky and
another from Dick in Kansas, then ABATE organizations, VFWs and HOG chapters.
The first money donated was a $100 from UMF of America or just plain Uglies.
Wherever someone volunteered food or gas I connected lines across the US. A
route and schedule were cemented. A Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant who ran the
print shop at MCRD ran off 10,000 flyers one weekend. Smiling with a Semper Fi on
his lips he filled the back of my pickup truck with boxes of paper one Sunday
afternoon.
The beginnings of biker events in Southern California are the Laughlin River Run
and the Yuma Prison Run, both in April. I packed the Wide Glide with camping gear
and flyers and attend both events wondering if anyone paid attention to my pleas to
remember our POW/MIAs and could you join me in a cross-country motorcycle ride?
Are you crazy? A ride across country? With Nam vets on medications riding
chopper bikes and junker Harleys? You have got to be kidding me!
Also, in April, I flew to DC to meet the leaders of Rolling Thunder Ray Manzo and I
clicked immediately. Both of us are Marine Nam vets, we walked and talked the
same language. We are still the best of friends today. Top Holland was our
coordinator for permits and contacts with Washington police, Pentagon, Park
Service and political hacks. Col Earl Hopper, whose son was Missing In Action and I
shared a hotel room. He was suspicious of bikers but he was all in when we created
such a noise the next month. While at breakfast, the news reported the killing of Col
Nick Rowe in the Philippines. Col Rowe escaped as a POW from the North
Vietnamese with them promising to get revenge. Another Communist group
murdered him while he worked for the American Embassy. Top Holland told us
stories of he and Nick working together “back in the day”.
With less than a month remaining, the pace picked up. Riders arrived at my home to
camp on my lawn the day before the Run began. A pickup truck and trailer were
loaded with t-shirts and patches. Jon from Hawaii parked his bike and trailer in front
of my house then complained about the rain during the evening. The “rain” was my
sprinklers which came on covering his camp site. What a start of a long ride.
Marion Shelton gave me a photo of Charles with his Harley and three of their
children. She schooled me on POW issues and came to several events to raise
awareness. And then for the start of Run For The Wall, she was there waving us on.
Her words, “What can you do?” rang in my ears when we left San Diego that
morning of Friday, May 19th .

FRIDAY, SAN DIEGO TO LAS VEGAS

Forming in front of The Landing Zone, home of the Vietnam Veterans of San Diego in
downtown we had 200 bikes or so lined up and ready to ride. The police said to get
in the far-left lane and follow them. I-15 wasn’t completed yet but with police escort
we hauled butt to the Truck Stops of America in Ontario. Leading the pack on the
left, my partner, Bill, on the right and several local riders behind me who I knew well,
we clicked along at about 70 MPH. Bill lost his camping gear and blew his motor
before we reached Ontario so Pete came up to fill the gap. To our huge surprise,
Ontario was full of folks from various biker and veteran organizations. Someone had
read the flyers, listened to my pleas, had me crying. Mike and Linda Little, Tony
Diamond and so many others were there to see us on our quest. The first donated
food and support were here in Ontario. Several news organizations had arrived.
Later I learned we looked pretty good on local TV.
Up the steep Cajon Summit on I-15 to the fuel stop in Barstow was unique. Riders
bought their own gas and a news journalist from Marine Corps Base Barstow took
our photos and took interviews. At the Nevada line we stopped at Big Nose Kate’s
for cold air conditioning and wait for some riders from Las Vegas. We then rode to
the KOA campground for our evening stop. The VFW donated a spaghetti dinner
with fresh pies from the local ladies. One of these women was my cousin who was
the first Marine Corps woman officer from Tennessee who served in the Pacific
during WW 2. What an honor.

Staging at the Vets Center
Wide Glide Ready to Ride
News interview in Barstow
Gunny in Barstow
Gas Tank Art

SATURDAY, LAS VEGAS TO GREEN RIVER UT

After a donated breakfast at the VFW, most of the riders returned to California but a
core group of us, maybe 30, continued the mission. Up I-15 through the Virgin
Canyon to St George UT for lunch where Al Spay caught up with us after a long
morning in Vegas. Jim from ABATE of Utah met us at the border, informing us that I-
70 was being paved with long lines of construction traffic and that we should ride
around. This we did, past Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon and through Capitol
Reef. When stopped in Fruita at a gas stop, an elderly lady hurried out with her
Kodak Instamatic to interview and take photos of the pack. She published an article
in the local weekly paper and made us famous in northern Utah.
In Green River, ABATE and other organizations had a camp site and dinner waiting.
While most of us pitched tents, our two Vietnam veteran doctors were checking into
the local motel. They heard a young girl screaming while running downstairs into
the parking lot in her night gown. The two ran upstairs to an open door and found an
older gentleman laying on his back not breathing. One doctor gave mouth to mouth
while the other did chest compressions. At this moment, a Highway Patrol Officer
with gun drawn, saw two bikers beating a man and ordered them off the man and
stop the assault. Between breaths, they explained they were trying to save the
man’s life. Unfortunately, the victim died. The girl was never found and the cop
apologized. All of this while the rest of us enjoyed a meal and good night’s rest.

SUNDAY, GREEN RIVER TO DENVER CO

Riding east through the Utah high dessert in an early morning sun rise is a beautiful
thing. I found I was looking in my rearview mirror as much as the windshield when
suddenly…… A quick look backwards and I confirmed that only a couple of bikes
were behind me with a big cloud of dust in the background. We few U-turned on I-70
riding back west along the shoulder. We found the pack parked along the highway
with a pickup truck on its side in a cattle pasture. The old truck pulling a trailer had
broken its right axle as the pack passed. The truck and two male passengers rolled
through a fence line with the men’s two wives and family following in an old auto.
The Run For The Wall members were busy collecting “stuff” from the truck, the
doctors were helping the two men who rolled with the truck and tractor trailer trucks
were contacted via CB radio to call the cops. Who should arrive? The same State
Trooper from last night. At least this time he didn’t draw his weapon.
Back again riding east on the interstate we passed the Colorado state line with many
members of Vietnam Veterans of America waving flags and welcoming us to their
state. We stopped in Grand Junction for fuel and interviews. A pattern was forming.
I would be interviewed by local press with barley enough time to use the bathroom.
Someone would push my bike to the fuel pumps and fill me up. The RFTW team was
coming together. Each rider helping wherever he or she could.
Climbing into the Rockies we crossed the 11,158-foot Eisenhower Pass through the
1.69-mile Johnson Tunnel. None of us were prepared for the snow and cold. After
photos and more clothes added at a rest area, we rode downhill to the KOA of
Denver east of town. What a welcome we received from several Sons of God and
Christian Motorcycle Association members with dinner served in a Quonset hut and
ice cream cups for dessert.

MONDAY, DENVER TO SALINA KS

Big Bill was going to ride just to Denver then told me he had a brother in Kansas so
bought new clothes at a Walmart and kept riding…. all the way to DC. Marc and
Melissa were on their honeymoon and were also only going to Denver but ended in
DC when Melissa presented Marc with extra money. Gary had a cracked gas tank
and Timmy was riding a Sportster with ape hanger handlebars. Neither could ride
more than 80 miles at a time so pulled out of the pack and caught up at the next
stop. Russ, being Gary’s brother, hung in there with them. Jerry was a retired
firefighter on his first motorcycle cross country and ended up being one of the
leaders. Later in life he rode dozens of times across country and started the club
Wind and Fire. Al became our Road Captain and Don, a former cop, our only road
guard. Don is still a road guard with RFTW 32 years later as of this date. Stewart
was riding an old police bike with flames. He wasn’t a veteran but cared. Phil or
Beemer was our only BMW rider. Not until after we were in DC did he confide to me
that he was going blind and that this was his last chance to ride. Country was from
Oregon riding on an old Kawasaki that Pete fixed nightly. Cord didn’t have her own
bike so hitched rides with others. She made it all the way. Jon from Hawaii pulled a
trailer. Scotty, a WW 2 Marine sniper, and his wife Nina were on a Volkswagen trike.
He loved to do wheelies. At the KOA in Denver-Strausburg we met a family moving
east who joined our little Band of Brothers riding in an old Corvette. Tom and Joe
rode in the pickup with a bike trailer. Ralph and Lois became the unofficial all the
way photographers.
The high plains are beautiful but boring. Wheat field after wheat field were the norm.
We kept moving east. At the Kansas border a large crowd of veterans met us with a
plane pulling a Run For The Wall banner following along on I-70. The full-service
town of Colby welcomed us with discount fuel, food, oil change and a high school
band. Dick was in charge of this stop and did a superb job.
After a filling lunch we kept riding, picking up riders at each stop. We were now up
to a hundred. After a long day, we pulled into a public park where the Vietnam
Veterans Motorcycle Club had bar-b-que and live music waiting. After a meeting
with the club officers, it was decided that their pack would ride ten minutes behind
the main pack to help with traffic congestion. They had maybe fifty riders so our
numbers kept growing. We were also beginning to receive more police escorts, a
big help.

TUESDAY, SALINA TO WENTZVILLE MO

With the help of local and state police and many volunteers the ever-increasing pack
rode to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Junction City. This is the home of the
Army’s 1 st Infantry Division and major supporter of RFTW. Flags were unfurled,
speeches were given, rifles were fired and taps played. Back on the road again we
passed Topeka and rode on the Kansas Turnpike. Here, ABATE of Kansas had
worked with the authorities to give RFTW its own “special” lane passing the toll
booths and kept the pack moving.
In Kansas City, Denise and United Auto Workers provided lunch and more support.
Across Missouri to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Wentzville we rode. Built in
1967, this is one of the oldest memorials to Vietnam Veterans in America. The men
responsible for this were there to greet us and welcome us to this very patriotic
community.

Wentzville Vietnam Memorial

WEDNESDAY, WENTZVILLE TO OWENSBORO KY

After camping in a local park and breakfast in a café, the pack rolled into the big city
of St Louis. With help from local police and fire fighters, we rode down to the
Mississippi River in front of the Gateway Arch. Flooding had occurred that week so
the fire trucks hosed off the muddy roads in front of us. We took photos in front of
the Gateway Arch, gave speeches and spoke with the local supporters. Escorted
over the Mississippi River, we crossed into Illinois traveling on I-64.
Lunch was donated by the Big Wheeler truck stop in Mt Vernon. We continued east
then south into Evansville IN then across the Ohio River to Owensboro KY, home of
Col Charles Shelton and our stop for the night. George and Joni did an outstanding
job of setting up our camp site, dinner, military displays and inviting Col Shelton’s
friends and family to join with us in remembering America’s last Vietnam POW. It
was a wonderful homecoming for the riders and supporters.

THURSDAY, OWENSBORO TO MT STERLING KY

The town came out the next morning lining the roads to see us off to our next stop in
Louisville, KY. We met more supporters in a local park and were given a flag to
leave at The Wall. Greasy and his group led us to the most magnificent Vietnam
Veterans Memorial in Frankfort, the state capitol. To quote the Memorial’s web site,
“Each Veteran’s name is precisely engraved on the blue-gray granite so the shadow
of the sundial pointer touches their name on the anniversary of their death. Thus,
each individual is honored with a personal tribute.” Outstanding memorial and a
must see. That evening we camped in a donated field, ate a donated meal and
listened to music from a band who donated their talents. Thank you to one and all.

FRIDAY, MT STERLING TO NATURAL BRIDGE VA

In Kentucky, Gary Wetzel – Medal of Honor Recipient – and Cowboy from Texas and
his daughter, Donna joined our group. Rain began to fall as we entered the
mountains of West Virginia. At a rest stop near Charleston, I spoke with a WV Dept
of Transportation official who told me each bike must stop at every toll booth and
pay. I argued that in Kansas we paid after the pack rolled through, a much safer and
quicker method. Having each rider remove rain gear, gloves and getting money at
each booth was unacceptable to me. Gary and I looked at a paper map and saw a
road around the toll booths, US Highway 60. A local rider said he would call the
union coal truck drivers to take a lunch break giving us a clear path along the curvy,
mountainous right of way.
Highway 60 or Midland Trail follows a beautiful easterly path along the Kanawha
River. The sun came out so we stopped in Glen Ferris for a “family” photo at an old
two-story hotel along the New River. Continuing mostly flat for a few miles, the road
suddenly begins to climb and twists to Hawk’s Nest. Then more twisty curves and
more mountains. Alone, this would be a great ride. Leading 250 motorcycles – not
so fun. Where in the world is the road going? At a hill crest a cop car suddenly
darted in front of the pack. Gary and I looked down and saw hundreds of folks in the
road. What’s going on? What is this town? Rainelle WV? Never heard of it but they
have heard of us.
It seems the local police chief and a radio station have publicized our coming for a
couple of hours so the school kids and town folk have come out to welcome us to
the most amazing town in the US. We are surrounded by well-wishers. Many in the
pack buy ice cream at the Dairy Queen. We are astonished, shocked and amazed.
Most of these hard-core veteran bikers have never heard the words “Thank you” or
“Welcome Home” and here a whole town is doing just that. Little children want to
hug us, call us heroes and please come back. Come back we did and still do today.
We ride out to a park just outside of town to take a breather and talk about what just
happened. Tears flow freely as we mount up for a fairly flat ride back to Sam Black
Church and I-64. The interstate flows quickly down a long downhill slide into
Virginia. We take some backroads to a campground along the James River where
my mother and brothers are waiting. What is supposed to be a nice grassy area is a
cow pasture that is full of crap and has not been cut. It’s disappointing but will do.
Several of the riders share rooms at a local motel as the rain falls again.

Rainelle Welcoming RFTW 30 years after the first Run for the Wall Visit

SATURDAY, NATURAL BRIDGE TO WASHINGTON DC

Interstate 81 is never an easy road but in the rain with a long line of motorcycles it’s
even harder. Truckers throw water in our faces and autos jump in and out of the
pack much too fast giving us finger jesters because we are slowing them down in
their fast pace world. In Front Royal, a veteran’s group, Americans Supporting
America’s Veterans, has set up a campground with welcome food and fuel.
The sun comes out but the traffic is heavy as we take I-66 the last 65 miles into
Arlington and the Marine Corps Iwo Jima War Memorial. Photos are taken, many
photos. The core group has ridden 3000 miles across country. For most, this is the
longest ride they have ever taken.
Now we cross the Arlington Memorial Bridge, pass the Lincoln Memorial to our
reserved parking area. I give a talk about the importance of this time, this moment
and thank the riders. It is a somber walk to our destination, The Vietnam Veterans
Memorial – The Wall. Some riders need help, most cry openly and all are amazed by
this black granite stone with the 57,939 names of our friends, family and comrades.
343 more names have since been added. We spend the rest of the afternoon in our
thoughts and prayers. From here, each rider goes their own way on their on time.
Most return to Front Royal to the campground. I elect to share a room with my
brother BB in DC. The first Run For The Wall has ended. The first, the only, the
longest organized motorcycle ride across America has ended in a huge success.
That evening I enjoy the company of fellow veterans on The Mall listening to Britt
Small and Festival play patriotic music. Speeches are given then Gary Wetzel orders
me on stage. I see in the audience one of our riders – 18-year-old Donna from Texas.
I explain to the large crowd that this young woman has just ridden her own Harley
with her father and hundreds of other veterans to be here with them tonight. Later, I
will lean that she barely made her high school graduation a few days later.


SUNDAY, ROLLING THUNDER 2 – WASHINGTON DC

I awoke early, getting to the Pentagon parking lot by 6 AM to meet our merchandise
trailer. We must sell products to pay the many bills RFTW has accumulated the past
few months. Upon arrival, no trailer. I wait, still no trailer. I jump on the Harley and
haul butt back to the campground in Front Royal. Along the way, I see George and
Joni along the shoulder on the other side of the highway. I U-turn, find they have a
flat tire so with Joni in the passenger seat, return to Front Royal. While she gets her
truck and trailer to go get George, I hunt for the merchandise trailer. Everyone is still
asleep after celebrating too late the night before. Get up we have to move.
Again, I race back to the Pentagon and finally at 10 the merchandise arrives. The
riders help distribute patches and t-shirts. Some money is raised but not nearly
enough. Just before Rolling Thunder begins, Gary Wetzel asks Ray Manzo, Greasy,
myself and others to place the Medal of Honor around his neck. At 12 noon RFTW
helps lead RT II four bikes abreast over the bridge into DC and pass the Capitol and
White House. My friend Pete is in charge of the Air Force honor guard. He has
received permission from Arlington National Cemetery to allow us to lay a wreath at
the Tomb of the Unknow Soldier. With Gary in the lead, this we do. So many
volunteers, so many folks to thank for all of this to come together. I could never
remember them all – but to all ya’ll – THANK YOU!

THE AFTERMATH OR NOW WHAT?

After all the running back and forth to Front Royal, I run out of gas during Rolling
Thunder. I borrow a drink cup from a bystander, pour gas from one bike into my
tank and make it to a gas station. What an ending to an epic ride. My support
vehicle has left without me. I am all alone after thousands of miles with multiple
motorcycles in my ears. I ride up to Luray Caverns to enjoy the solitude. Here I find
Scotty and Nina riding back to Arizona. We speak for awhile then go our separate
ways. I ride the scenic and peaceful Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway to my
parent’s mountain cabin in Hendersonville NC. After a couple of days, it is time to
move on westward. I borrow some money from Dad, pack up and head out. What a
difference ridding alone. I camp along the highway, sometimes on picnic tables in
rest areas. Up early in Albuquerque, I make the final 800-mile push to San Diego in
one day.

I have tried to compile a list of those riders who rode “all the way” in 1989. After 32
years, my memory isn’t great but here goes. If I left anyone out, please let me know
via email at: Bikergunny@msn.com
James “Gunny” Gregory and Bill Evans
Sam and Margo Van Alstyne
Mark and Melissa Recker
Ralph and Lois Meyer
Don “Bullet” Pierce and Al Spay
Jerry “Evo Red” Eibert and Jon “Hawaii” Gossett
Phil “Beemer” Swartz and Stewart “Flames” Pressman
Bill “Big Bill” Sallee and Timmy “Sportster” Murphy
Gary and Russ Benedict – Booze Brothers
Ed “County” Sheppard and Pete “Mate” Eunice
Scotty and Nina Scott
Pete “Firefighter” Boyle and Cord
Russ “Doc” Adcock and Doctor Bob
Ken and Nick and Roy “Roy Boy” Sandidge
Tom Johnson and Joe

Run for the Wall - We ride for those who can't

What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been

Posted on Leave a comment

Ian “Whiskey Chaser” Hargest

Name: Ian R. Hargest
Road Name: Whiskey Chaser
FNG Year: 2016
How many All the Way: Central Route, All The Way, 2016, 2018, 2019

What is your favorite Run for the Wall memory?
My dad, who was my inspiration for all I do to support our service-members and Veterans.  I visited with him in 2016 after my FNG run.  The looks on his face as I shared the multitude of experiences, both with the public and fellow Riders, I had while on The Run.  Learning later, after he passed in late 2017, that he’d worn something that I’d gotten for him from The Run nearly every day.

Positions held as a volunteer on the Run? Rider, Tail Gunner
Military Background if any or relationships with Military: Father, Uncles, friends
Gold Star or Blue Star family member? No
What got you to do the RFTW the first time?
I moved from VA to NV and had no way to get back to DC to continue paying my respects
What brought you back?
RFTW is family.  The Mission.  Being able to help our servicemembers, veterans and their families heal in any way that I can.
Have you participated in Rolling Thunder?
Yes, in previous years, both before and after joining RFTW.
Are you planning on Rolling to Remember (AMVETS Replacement for Rolling Thunder)?
No

Brief Synopsis of “WHY YOU RIDE”

  • I ride in RFTW to support our service-members, veterans and their families.  I get much more from the ride than I give, which is not insignificant.  I enjoy the opportunities to help those for whom we ride.  On the ride home, as with the rest of the year, I enjoy being an unofficial RFTW ambassador with those members of the public who express interest in the organization and its mission.
Posted on Leave a comment

WHY I RIDE- Tim “BIG Bopper” Bannister

WHY I RIDE

  • Road Name: BIG Bopper
    FNG Year: 2016
    How many times have you been All the Way?  This will be 5    All the way every year
    On Which Route (Routes) did you ride? Midway
     What is your favorite Run for the Wall memory? WOW, so many, but the “man on the ramp” as I have referred to him. Just coming by an overpass and there he was, in a wheelchair outside his car. Looked to be a Korean era Veteran and as he came into view was pushing himself up to position and saluting us as we rode past. To me it was that quiet unobtrusive man with all his strength supporting me and I felt so unworthy. I have carried that memory every mile, of every trip since and throughout the years. I have looked at the thousands who have stood in yards, schools, cities, gas stations, roadsides, bridges, farm fields, and more and have always felt they were every bit as important to this run as those who ride. I am the fortunate one who can ride for them, who can carry their message of hope, freedom, gratitude, and yes, the pain of lost loved ones on this mission. I have looked every year for the “man on the ramp”, maybe that was his final chance to say “thank you”, maybe my timing is off, but it will forever be a memory, a motivator and the answer to the question “Why I Ride”?
     Have you held any positions as a volunteer on the Run? 
    2 years Tailgunner for Platoon 1 and this will be my 2nd year as Platoon Leader for Platoon 3
     Are you a Military Veteran, or do you have a military background or a relationship with a member of the Military? Marine Corps (75-81) father of a Marine Daughter, and a Navy Son.
    Are you a Gold Star or Blue Star family member? Yes, Blue Star Father
    What inspired you to participate in the RFTW the first time? In 2013 my best friend and the former Vice Mayor of Palm Springs under Sonny Bono simply told me to be on a certain bridge at a certain time on a certain day. Well you don’t say no to Tuck, so I was holding a flag on I-10 for the next three years always saying I want to do this.
    What brought you back? The “Man on the ramp” and the ability to serve others.
    Have you participated in Rolling Thunder? Yes 3 years
    Are you planning on participating in Rolling to Remember (the AMVETS event that replaces Rolling Thunder)? Yes

 

My first year RC Daryl “Top” Neal with Kathy (left) and my wife Celia (right)

The Flag Speaks for itself

My first year as a Platoon Leader. I learned so much with so much support from this motley looking crew. No it’s not a mistake! Some Roadguard named Mazz slipped into the picture (back row red hat). He knew quality when he saw it.

 

Posted on Leave a comment

WHY I RIDE-Don Smith

WHY I RIDE

  • Name: Don Smith
  • Road Name:       Haven’t ‘earned’ one yet
  • FNG Year: 2019
  • How many times have you been All the Way?    1   
  • On Which Route (Routes) did you ride? Southern Route

 What is your favorite Run for the Wall memory?
In Wytheville, VA. Pam Cain talked about her father, Col. Oscar Mauterer who has been MIA since Feb 15, 1966. That was three days after I was born. The pollen must have been bad that day because my eyes began to water. While I was listening to her talk about Col. Mauterer I was also thinking that this is why I am here. This lady has not known where her father is roughly since I was born.  Wiping my eyes several times I said prayers for Pam, and her family. At the D-Day Memorial I caught up to Pam. As I approached her, my eyes began to tear up again. When I got to her I stumbled over my words but told her that her father went MIA three days after I was born. She must have sensed how emotional I was and gave me a hug like we’ve known each other for decades. I told her that her speech was my “RFTW Moment” and that I would tell others of his story. She sincerely thanked me, and we traded email addresses.

Remembering my youth (1970’s-80’s) when I saw POW/MIA bracelets and was curious about them I decided the best way to honor Col. Mauterer was to purchase one. When I got home from the Run I looked them up online and ordered one. The day it came in the mail I sent Pam a picture of it. She was overwhelmed with what I did. Among other words of appreciation, she said, “You just have no idea what this does to strengthen & support us.”  I wear the bracelet every day. Many times people have asked me about it and I gladly answer and still get choked up.

When I got home I also arranged for monthly visitations of our Christian Motorcyclist Association Chapter at the Oregon Veterans Hospital in The Dalles OR. these visits are equally appreciated by the Veterans and by our Chapter members.

When I got home I also arranged for monthly visitations of our Christian Motorcyclist Association Chapter at the Oregon Veterans Hospital in The Dalles OR. these visits are equally appreciated by the Veterans and by our Chapter members.

Have you held any positions as a volunteer on the Run? I have not but I will volunteer in the future.

 Are you a Military Veteran, or do you have a military background or a relationship with a member of the Military? I am not a Veteran. I have a brother, brother-in-law, son-in-law, and many Uncles, and cousins who have served.

Are you a Gold Star or Blue Star family member? No

What inspired you to participate in the RFTW the first time? Several friends have gone ‘All the Way’ the past few years and I felt the need to do it as well.

What brought you back? I haven’t yet but will in 2021.

 Have you participated in Rolling Thunder? Yes

 Are you planning on participating in Rolling to Remember (the AMVETS event that replaces Rolling Thunder)? Yes